GEN 22: 1-18; ROM 8: 31-34; MARK 9: 2-10
One day a young monk asked an older monk: “Why do so many come here to join the monastery, but after a short time they give up the effort to be a monk, and leave?” The old monk thought for a while, and answered: “Sometimes as you stand here in front of the monastery you will see a rabbit pass by chased by the village dogs, barking and howling. After some time the rabbit comes back but there are only one or two dogs in pursuit. These are the dogs who actually saw the rabbit, the other dogs were following the barking. Likewise, if we are to persevere in the monastery and live as monks we must have a glimpse of the rabbit — of the Lord — and not just be following the barking.
Dear friends! In today’s gospel we see at beginning of the gospel Jesus taking Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves and at the end of the gospel, they were going down the mountain…
Life is filled with peaks and valleys. A peak is something excellent that happens in your life, something great, and something to celebrate and remember. The birth of your child – that is a highpoint in your life. The day you get married – that is a peak. During those moments, it’s easy to be a Christian. “God is good,” you think to yourself. There’s no doubt in your mind that God is blessing you.
But life isn’t one peak after another. There are the valleys too. The troubles of life. Those difficult moments. When you have been diagnosed with cancer – that’s a valley. When a loved one dies – that’s a valley. During those moments, it’s more difficult to be a Christian sometimes. When you’re in the valley, it’s hard to say, “God is good.” Sometimes your faith is shaken. There’s some doubt there, when you’re in a valley, that God is blessing you and those around you.
Peaks and valleys – where are you right now? Are you on top of a peak? Or are you in a valley? Maybe you’re somewhere in between – maybe there’s a peak or a valley for you right around the corner, and you don’t even know it. The disciples of Jesus Christ had no idea that they were about to enter a valley – they were about to go through a low-point with Christ. Things with Jesus seemed to be going so well – he had performed miracles – walking on the water, feeding the 5000. He had been surrounded by crowds of people, listening to his parables. It was easy to be a disciple of Jesus at that time. There was no doubt that this was the Son of God, the Savior of the world. The disciples were experiencing one high-point after another with Jesus.
But right around the corner loomed the valley of the shadow of death. The crowds would soon turn against Jesus. He’d be betrayed, and arrested, and tortured, and publicly condemned, and executed in the most shameful way known to man at that time. The valley was right around the corner. The disciples would be filled with fear and doubt that Jesus was the Son of God. Soon, it would be very difficult to be a disciple of Christ. A deep, dark valley was right around the corner, and the disciples had no idea.
And so that is why today, Jesus takes them to the top of a mountain. He lets them experience something amazing – with their own eyes, they catch a glimpse of his glory. Right before the valley, Jesus takes them to a mountain, to a high point, and he does this to strengthen them for the difficult road ahead.
Today, it is good for us to go on this journey with those disciples too, and experience with them this high point, for two reasons.
All other days, you have heard about Christ, how powerful he is, what a great teacher he is, how he is, without a doubt, the Son of God and Savior of the World. But now it is Lent, that time in the church year when Jesus descends into the valley of the shadow of death. You’re going to hear about how he was rejected. How he was weak. How he suffered and died for the sins of the world. These next five weeks, we are going to walk with Jesus, into that valley, and see those difficult moments. This mountain-top experience we hear about today prepares us for the valley ahead.
It also prepares us for something else – our own personal valleys. As we see Jesus glorified here today, it prepares us when we go through our own difficult moments. May God bless you this day, as you stand with those disciples and see Jesus reveal his glory – may your faith be strengthened, for the days ahead, as you prepare for all the different peaks and valleys in your life.